August 4, 2019

Gillette, AZ: Boom To Bust in 35 Years

Daniel B Gillette needed a mill for his Tip-Top mines and the mill needed water. He found a spot 6 miles away on the Aqua Fria river. In a matter of months, not only was the mill in full operation, but a whole town complete with stores, saloons and hotels had sprung up out of the wilderness. 

Just nine years later, the town which some thought would rival Prescott, would be dealt a mortal wound.

It was in July, 1877, when Gillette examined the area where the future Tip-Top mine would be located and was “well-pleased with what (he) saw." The area was so rich with ore that it was commercially feasible to construct a whopping ten stamp mill to process it. This caused a stir in the mining community as it would be the biggest stamp mill ever brought into the county to date.

Gillette contracted Alex Harris to make 75,000 bricks for $1425. These would be utilized to construct a roasting furnace, as well as providing shelter for the boiler, engine and other necessary infrastructure.

The distance between the mines and the mill was 6 miles and “about 3 miles below Jack Swilling’s house,” the paper reported. (Jack Swilling is best remembered for providing the water rights for Phoenix.) Gillette also needed plenty of wood for the new mill’s construction, and he contracted with Swilling for 500 chords.

The project of tapping into this promising vein was, according to the paper, “the largest yet undertaken in the Territory.” 30 men were employed simply preparing the mine and the mill for operation. “Everything is represented to be booming in that locality,” the paper described.

In a mere 29 days, 3 company buildings were already completed at the mill site including an office and complete assay room measuring 20 by 36 feet; a stone blacksmith shop measuring 20 by 24; and a stone boarding house measuring 24 by 60 feet. Soon a kiln requiring another 100,000 bricks was built.

Immediately “a large number of prospectors camped around” the mill site in anticipation of future employment. “The Camp consumes 3 beef each week,” the paper reported. 

An unknown saloon keeper set up shop in a tent while “erecting a stone building just outside the company’s grounds.” This would be the first building in the town of Gillette.

The surveyor of the town laid-out 6 streets that were named for streets in San Francisco: Main, California, North, Pine, Market and Mill. “5 blocks containing from 20-60 lots each” were created. Immediately upon completion of the survey, “lots were in great demand and sold rapidly,” at a price of $100 for a regular lot and $250 for a corner lot. 

Three months later, advertisements for town businesses began to run regularly.

On October 15th, 1878 a post office was established with postmaster John J Hill in charge. The newspaper announced: “A town has been formed and named Gillette after the gentleman who has had very much to do toward putting the district in shape… Enterprising merchants have established houses of trade…where the hardy miner can purchase the necessary supplies. Blacksmith shops are numerous.” A Feed & Livery Stable appeared and was a “chief attraction.” The next summer saw the first of three hotels completed as well as a brewery and a competing general store.

An entire Prescott saloon, owned by Dan Shaw, was sold and moved to Gillette as the population grew to 500. However, at the end of 1885, it was announced that the mill at Gillette was sold to another mining property in the Tiptop district and was moved to that location in the early summer of ‘86.

The exodus of the mill brought the exodus of most of GIllette’s residents, but the businesses mostly remained, still conveniently serving the mining district. 

Gillette’s future seemed brighter when, in March 1887, a new stage line was created. It ran Mondays and Thursdays from the Prescott Plaza to “Phenix” via Gillette and Tiptop. Despite this, the post office shuttered in February, 1888.

Gillette shrank further when the high-grade ore at the Tiptop tapped out. Finally, in 1912, highways took precedence over stage routes and the way to Gillette was discontinued. The town that exploded into existence in 1877 died at age 35. 

Today Gillette is located within private property.

The story and history of Sullivan Lake, Arizona (located between Chino Valley and Paulden on "Old Hwy. 89") and the mysterious ruins surrounding it.

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At this date, 35 towns and places are described.

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Weekly Arizona Miner, 7/27/1877; Pg. 4, Col. 2.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 10/12/1877; Pg. 4, Col. 2.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 11/2/1877; Pg.2, Col. 2.
Arizona Sentinel, 2/9/1878; Pg. 1, Col. 3.
Weekly Republican, 2/23/1878; Pg. 4, Col. 6.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/15/1878; Pg. 4, Col. 3.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 3/22/1878; Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Weekly Republican, 3/30/1878; Pg. 3, Col. 4.
Weekly Republican, 3/2/1878; Pg. 1, Col. 2.
Weekly Republican, 4/13/1878; Pg. 1, Col. 2.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/18/1878; Pg. 3, Col. 3.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 6/14/1878; Pg. 2, Col. 3.
Arizona Weekly Citizen, 12/12/1885; Pg. 3, Col. 2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/22/1888; Pg. 3, Col. 1.
Arizona Champion, 5/15/1886; Pg. 4, Col. 1.
“Remnants of Buildings…” Sharlot Hall Museum Archives; VF-Towns-Gillette.
“Gillette” Sharlot Hall Museum Archives; VF-Towns-Gillette.

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